The temperatures are finally dropping, signaling the beginning of the ice fishing season. Safety is the biggest concern on early ice, so I have a list of items that are needed especially for this early winter with the “iffy” ice.
1.) Life vest
For the first two weeks of the ice season, I always wear my life vest. Stay away from the CO2 automatic vests, as I have found them very unreliable in the colder temperatures. I don’t believe the manufacturers have worked out all the bugs on them, as they are relatively new in the marketplace. You are better off with the standard, fixed vests that require no mechanical mechanism to deploy.
2.) Ice cleats
I actually wear my ice cleats all season and never go on the ice without them. They will save you from a fall and are especially efficient inside your portable ice shack when the heater melts the snow inside the house. Use the cleats that have the metal teeth on the bottom, not the goofy spring style. A good pair of ice cleats will set you back about $80, but it’s worth not having a trip to the ER.
3.) Wing man
I always make it a point to have a “wingman” or partner with me on the ice for obvious safety reasons. Decisions on where to go and how are better debated with two anglers than one.
4.) Travel light
Early ice means traveling light. Leave the amenities behind and use your portable to haul the basics. Bring just enough small bottles of propane to get the job done and downsize your minnow bucket with just a handful of bait. A couple of rods will be sufficient. Traveling light means an easier trip on the ice via walking. There is just enough snow-cover now to make walking a bit of a chore. It will be a while before snowmobiles and ATVs will be employed statewide.